Illinois Farm Bureau’s board of directors this week unanimously voted to oppose Great Lakes Basin Transportation’s (GLBT) proposed 261-mile, three-state railroad that will cut through prime Illinois farmland.
“We are concerned about the impact of the GLBT rail line on private property rights and the potential loss of farmland,” said IFB President Richard Guebert Jr. “Based on the actual proposal and input from six county Farm Bureaus, we’ve taken action to oppose the project.”
The presidents of six county Farm Bureaus – Grundy, Kankakee, LaSalle, Ogle, Will and Winnebago-Boone – requested the board take a position on the project. They estimate nearly 5,000 acres of farmland will be impacted for the rail line and another 14,700 acres for the project’s proposed railport at Manteno.
Related Story: Winnebago County dairy farmer says, if approved, Great Lakes Basin railroad project would make raising livestock impossible.
Laura Harmon, IFB senior counsel, provided the board with an update on the project.
GLBT officially requested permission from the Surface Transportation Board (STB) May 1 to construct and operate a new toll rail line through Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. No Class 1 railroad has publicly supported or indicated it will use the proposed GLBT toll rail line.
The $2.9 billion project would be privately financed, but full funding has yet to be secured and won’t be until the project is approved, according to the application. The previous cost projection was $8 billion.
The STB’s five-member board, appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, currently has two vacancies. Harmon said the board’s decision will be based on a narrow set of questions:
- Is there public demand or need for the proposed project?
- Is the applicant financially able to construct and provide rail service?
- Is the project in the public interest and will it unduly harm existing services?
If approved, Harmon said, GLBT can seek to acquire land for its project through state eminent domain law.
Filing an application with the STB triggered a 35-day public comment period.
Thomas McFarland, an attorney representing six opposition groups in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, requested an additional 55 days, for a total of 90 days, for the public to comment. IFB and county Farm Bureaus have supported that request.
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